Popular Kailua Taco Truck Attracts Late-Night Crowd
Beto’s serves Mexican comfort food three nights a week.
Photos: Kawehi Haug
It used to be that, at 10 p.m. on a Thursday in Kailua, there were about three-and-a-half options for finding something to eat: Taco Bell, Jack in the Box and 7-Eleven. We’d count Zippy’s, but it’s been closed for months now for renovations. Now, come nightfall in Kailua on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday, people have started lining up for what is quickly becoming known as the best place for Mexican food on the Island. In Kailua! Sounds strange to us, too. And we’re there every weekend, so we know. Still, it feels too good to be true.
Carne asada quesadilla.
Beto’s Tacos y Platos is a lunch wagon that parks about 50 yards from Creekside’s (Kailua’s most venerated dive bar) perpetually open doors, right along the marsh on Hāmākua Drive. Owners Beto and Melinda turn out killer Mexican food from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. three nights a week, and have been for about two years. Preferring to stay low profile (sorry, guys), the couple has been quietly building a fan base that comes in the form of long lines from the time the truck opens for business until the early hours of the morning, when they serve their last torta.
The two-person operation runs smoothly and efficiently thanks to Melinda, whose 45 years in the restaurant business have made her a master expediter, and Beto, whose skills on a tiny truck grill have been sharpened over a lifetime of catering and chef-ing both here in the Islands and in Cali. Before making the truck their regular full-time gig, the two were in the bar takeover business. Struggling or burnt-out bar and restaurant owners would hire them to swoop in, take over operations and whip the place back into shape. Now, they’re whipping up really, really good Mexican comfort food that we can’t get enough of. (Seriously. We weren’t lying when we said we’re there every week. And while we’re being honest, it’s more like twice a week.)
Parking a food truck within shouting distance of a bar is a never a bad idea. But it’s not just drinkers with the munchies that flock to Beto’s. On any given night, there are entire families, dudes in suits on their way home from a late night at the office, sweaty couples in yoga gear after a Bikram sesh, hungry surfers—all waiting to get their hands on a few mini street tacos or a carne asada plate.
Beto’s menu features a decently long list of burritos, tacos, nachos, enchiladas and tortas. And, our new favorite, the quesadilla, which is more like a quesarito—a griddled quesadilla wrapped around the filling, burrito style. Everything comes with a choice of meat, including shredded beef, shredded chicken, carne asada, carnitas and carne adobada. There’s a lot to choose from, with endless meat combinations, so we’ll help you narrow it down. Get the nachos with the adobada, the quesadilla with carnitas, the torta with shredded beef and the tacos with carne asada.
Beto’s Tacos y Platos food truck, parks on Hāmākua Drive in Kailua next to Creekside Thursday through Saturday nights from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m., tacos, burritos, tortas and plates $7–$10.